“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it..And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meal offering unto the Lord” [Leviticus 23:10f, 15-17]
In the above verses we see the firstfruits of two separate harvests, and these two harvests are separated by a period of fifty days. The first harvest mentioned in this passage refers to the firstfruits of the barley harvest, which always took place on the first Sunday (“the morrow after the sabbath”) following Passover. On this day the priest waved the firstfruits of the barley harvest before the Lord, in anticipation of the remainder of the harvest yet to come. The Apostle Paul, when writing about the resurrection of the Messiah, and the anticipation of the final resurrection of the dead, refers to this feast day:
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept… But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor.15:20, 23).
It was on Firstfruits, the first Sunday after Passover, when the empty tomb of Yeshua was discovered. While Israel’s risen Messiah was walking the streets of Jerusalem that day as the firstfruits of the resurrection, Israel’s priests were in the Temple waving the firstfruits of the barley harvest before a torn veil that now represented access to the Presence of God through the death of the Messiah. (See Mt. 27:51 and Heb. 10:19-22). Biblically speaking, the anniversary of the Resurrection should be called “First Fruits,” not “Easter,” a word derived from the name of the Anglo-Saxon pagan fertility goddess.
The Lord instructed His people to count off fifty days (seven sabbaths plus a day) from Firstfruits to the Feast of Shavuot (“weeks”), a day which the New Testament calls Pentecost (Greek for “the fiftieth day”). This is the second harvest mentioned in our passage from Leviticus 23.
On this day there was to be “a new meal offering,” two loaves of bread baked with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. In addition to wheat, the Israelites brought the firstfruits of six other products of the Promised Land. The seven products are listed in Deuteronomy 8:8, where the Lord describes Israel as “a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and date-honey.” The Mishnah (in Bikkurim ch.3) describes how the Israelites brought the firstfruits to the Temple in an elaborate procession that included flute-playing, oxen with their horns overlaid with gold and wearing olive-leaf wreathes, and gold- and silver-covered baskets to hold the fruits.
According to Jewish tradition, Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. It is also the anniversary of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first Messianic believers in Jerusalem:
“And when the day of Pentecost [Shavuot] was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them doven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
Yeshua remained on earth for forty days after His Resurrection. On the day of His ascension, He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this baptism of the Holy Spirit. Ten days later, on Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, Yahweh came again in blazing glory as He had done at Mount Sinai. But this time He wrote His commandments not upon tablets of stone, but upon the fleshly tablets of men’s hearts, as the prophets had foretold. (See Jer. 31:31-34; Ezk. 11:19, 20 and 36:26f.)
It is no coincidence that the giving of the Spirit took place on the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. On the day the Torah was given, the sin of the golden calf caused “about 3,000 men” to be killed (Ex.32:28). On the day the Spirit was given, the preaching of Peter caused “about 3,000 souls” to find new life in the Messiah (Acts 2:41). This is an excellent illustration of the fact that “the letter [of the Law] kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6).
As believers in Israel’s Messiah, we are expected to obey the Torah. However, we are to obey “in the new way provided by the Spirit and not in the old way of outwardly following the letter of the law” (Rom. 7:6, Jewish NT). “The new way” does not mean a different set of laws. It means obeying the Torah from the heart. The Holy Spirit has written the Torah on our hearts and given us an inward desire to walk in obedience to our Heavenly Father’s will. This is “the new way provided by the Spirit,” and this is the blessing of Shavuot/Pentecost.